How to Improve Your Sewing

So…

There’s lots of reasons why people sew. For me, I enjoy the actual process of sewing. It’s almost  therapeutic. When I’m working on a project it’s one of the few times that I can totally tune out my surroundings. It so engrosses me that I lose track of time, kinda like a form of meditation.

But more than that, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to create something pleasing to me eye and let’s face it, I think we all find the compliments of others very rewarding as well. And I truly believe that the more our finished projects please us, the more joy we take from our pastime.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “practice makes perfect” and “repetition is the mother of skill”, but did you know that performance experts across a broad range of fields (from sports to music to medecine) contend that the best performers in the world are no different than you or me— they’ve just logged MANY more hours of practice.

But here’s the the thing… it’s so much more than the amount of practice, it’s more about the right kind of practice. And that’s what I want to show you in the rest of this post. I want to convince you that a relatively small amount of good quality practice can ultimately transform the final look of your project!

meSo… THE FIRST KEY to faster improvement is to do what all top artists and athletes do… practice the parts that make up the whole. The reason musicians practice scales and arpeggios is not because they love playing them (they don’t), its because doing so brands the various key signatures in their heads so they become 2nd nature. And when basketball players want to improve their shot percentages they spend hours shooting free throws and jumpshots.

You can easily mimic this same process by taking an honest look at your sewing to determine where you need to improve. Do you struggle with curves? Do your zippers always look uneven? Or does your bias taping technique spoil an otherwise perfect project? Why not find ways to practice these techniques with scrap materials on smaller projects? There’s all kinds of free patterns on the Internet now, so why not download a couple that feature curves, zippers or bias tape and start making them up. After doing so you may have some nifty last minutes gifts to fall back on PLUS you probably won’t feel the pressure of having invested a lot of time or money into a project and thinking, “I really, really don’t want to mess this up now”!

THE SECOND KEY is to remember that even though practice makes permanent, it’s only regular, purposeful practice that makes perfect. It’s no use pulling out the sewing machine once or twice a year and expecting it to make a difference in your work. You’ll want to create yourself a plan. Nothing rigid or forced – just something with a bit of structure and purpose so that every sewing session moves you forward.

For example – I don’t sew garments with button holes very often but each and EVERY time I do, I purposely plan some practice button hole practice time prior to actually creating the button holes on my finished garment. First, I dig out some scrap fabric of similar weight and texture to my project fabric (I also  recommend interfacing it if the buttonhole area on your project is interfaced.) Next, start making practice buttonholes. I generally keep on making them until I’ve made THREE totally perfect ones in a ROW! And you know what? I have been known to make 15 or more of them before I get 3 perfect ones in a row. (And just so you know, I learned this trick from my piano teacher!)

mentorTHE THIRD KEY is to find yourself a mentor. Observing an expert who’s already made the mistakes and spent hours honing their skills can massively cut down on your learning curve. Does no one in your list of family and friends qualify? No problem. You might check out YouTube.com and search for teaching videos about your particular topic . Or you could head on down to your local independent Quilt Shop and make an inquiry. You might benefit from a group class or perhaps the owner can recommend a local teacher you can hire for a few hours of one-on-one help!   🙂

I guarantee that when you combine these three elements
practicing the basics, practicing with purpose and structure and then learning from a mentor,

You will definitely improve…
significantly and quickly!

And now…. it’s YOUR turn!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how YOU’VE improved your sewing over time! Do you have any other tips or suggestions to add to this list? And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave them in the space provided below.

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8 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. Thanks for more great advice for those beginning and more advanced sewers. You have the knack of getting advice across without being “preachy” or talking down to folks – and that’s not an easy task! Always look forward to your blogs.

  2. Love, Love Love the advice! And yes I have done two out of the three things you mentioned. Now to find a mentor! We have a local fabric/quilt store that has a “Sew Fun” class. I believe that is my next thing to do and ask lots of questions!
    I absolutely love your blog!

  3. Love your designs, blog and Facebook page!

  4. Used to say “perfect practice makes perfect” to our kids. No one is perfect but the harder we try, the more rewarding it is. LOVE to sew. It’s nice to have something to show for my time as opposed to “just sitting there!” Good post, Kat!

  5. Andrea Campbell

    Very good encouraging inforormation. Thanks Kat.
    Personally I prefer “Practice makes progress”.
    My mentor is retired and spends her time quilting all day every day. She inspires me to squeeze more quilting into my day. Even though I work full time I’m managing to find a few more minutes for quilting than ever before and that gives me more practice time.